Status & Legal Concerns


Non Immigrant Petitions/Procedures : Status and Legal Concerns

This section describes requirements and procedures for individuals seeking to change to F-1 status, extend US stay, regain F-1 status and travel and re-enter the US.  Click on a topic below for information.




The following instructions are for persons who are already in the United States and wish to apply for a change of non-immigrant status to F-1 student status or J-1 status. The instructions are also for changing from F-1 or J-1 to F-2 or J-2.

Please note,  since April 12th, 2002 immigration regulations state that it is no longer possible for B-1 or B-2 tourists to change status to F-1 status in the U.S. unless the admitting immigration officer at the port of entry to the U.S. annotated the I-94 arrival/departure record card with the words "prospective student."  Visitors who have this annotation added to their tourist visa by a U.S. Consular official overseas are also eligible to change from tourist to student status in the U.S. However, today, most  well-thought out and presented applications for change of status from B-2 to F-1 are approved. 

In order for US Citizenship & Immigration Services to approve a change of status from B-2 status to student status, you must prove that you did not have a preconceived intention of being a student when you obtained your B-2 Visa. Students who applied for admission to the college before entering the US may have difficulty in having their applications approved.

Individuals applying for a change of non-immigrant status to F-1 student status must be able to prove the original status was maintained at the time of application. 


Example, if you are changing non-immigrant status from H-1 to F-1 you must prove you maintained H-1 status at the time of the application by including recent salary stubs or a recent employer letter with the application.

Example, if you are changing from a dependent status such as F-2, H-4, or G-4, your principle visa holder must submit photocopies of their I-94 and prove they were maintaining status.  The F-2's must show that the F-1 is still attending school, the H-4's H-1 must demonstrate that the H-1 is still employed, and the G-4's G-1 must show current employment with their organization.


Documents required for change of Non-Immigrant Status:


1. I-539 FORM (Application to change non-immigrant status or extend temporary status). If you have dependents who are also applying for change of status, you must complete the supplement page at the end of Form I-539.

2. I-20 FORM (If applying for F-1 status) or DS 2019 FORM (if applying for J-1 status). These forms will be issued ONLY after students have been academically admitted to The City College AND have submitted satisfactory financial affidavits of support (sponsorship) OR proof of sufficient personal funds.

3. I-134 FORM (Affidavit of support) with acceptable financial documents (please see the instructions attached to the I-134 form for a description of acceptable financial documents). No I-134 is required if you have sufficient personal funds in your own bank account (please provide a bank statement showing the current balance in your account).

4. A $370.00 CHECK OR MONEY ORDER. Personal checks must include your printed address on the check. All checks and money orders should be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security/US Citizenship & Immigration Services (or DHS/USCIS). IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAVE THE MONEY ORDER RECEIPT OR YOUR PERSONAL CHECK WHEN  IT IS RETURNED BY YOUR BANK.

5. PHOTOCOPY OF I-94 (this is the small white card which should be stapled inside your passport). NOTE: If you are applying for a change of status to F-2 or J-2 status you must also provide photocopies of your spouse's I-94 showing their F-1 or J-1 status AND copies of your spouse's I-20 or DS 2019 forms.  

6. Receipt proving that you have paid the $350 SEVIS fee  (click on the link for "Forms and Fees" on the main menu for more information on the SEVIS fee).


 Download PDF: Changing Non-Immigrant Status In The United States



Students may lose lawful status if they violate certain immigration and/or City College regulations. Reasons for falling out-of-status include, but are not limited to the following examples.

  • Failure to attend school
  • Failure to maintain full-time student status
  • Failure to complete studies within the time limit permitted.
  • Failure to complete school transfer in a timely fashion

How to Apply for Reinstatement to Student Status
Students who have lost lawful status may apply to the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)for reinstatement of their legal student status. In order to be reinstated to student status, applicants must do the following:

1. Convince the USCIS that the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control OR

2. Demonstrate that denial of the application by the USCIS would result in extreme hardship to you.

3. Be currently enrolled as a full-time student or have the intention of enrolling full-time in the first available semester after reinstatement is granted.

4. Satisfy the examining immigration officer that student has not engaged in illegal employment.

5. Provide currently valid and satisfactory affidavits of financial support.

6. Submit the application for reinstatement of status to USCIS within five (5) months from the date of loss of status.



1. Complete an I-539 form to extend time of temporary stay (form available in the International Student Office) or from USCIS

2. Obtain a new I-20 form from The City College of New York requesting reinstatement

3. Submit updated financial support documents

4. Submit all I-20 (student) copies issued by U.S. colleges or universities where the student has studied  (or the I-20 ID used to enter the U.S. even if you didn't attend that school).

5. A $370.00 check or money order payable to "DHS/USCIS" (Department of Homeland Security/US Citizenship & Immigration Services).

6. I-94 form (small white card inside your passport)

7. Receipt proving payment of $350 SEVIS fee (see main menu for more information on this fee under topic "Forms and Fees").

8. A letter written by the student that explains fully what unforeseen circumstances contributed to the violation of status.


All absences from studies, or part-time studies, must be fully explained. Evidence supporting your application should also be submitted such as medical certificates, letters from academic advisers, etc. The statement of the student is the single most important factor in reinstatement. You must provide convincing reasons to USCIS to persuade them that there were genuine circumstances which prevented you from studying. Lack of available funds is NOT an acceptable excuse for non-attendance. NO on or off-campus work permission is possible while you wait for USCIS to make a decision in your reinstatement application.

Remember: You must persuade the immigration inspector that you are a serious student who intends to obey the regulations and complete studies in the shortest possible time.
Prepare your argument carefully and explain all absences from school and part-time studies fully. You have only one opportunity. You cannot appeal a denial of an application for reinstatement.   Students should submit an application for reinstatement of status only after consulting with the international student advisor.


Every semester some students experience unnecessary problems when they attempt to re-enter the United States because they do not have all of the documents required by the Department of Homeland Security when they arrive at a US port of entry.

It can be an inconvenient and rather scary experience to be detained by the immigration authorities when they suspect that you are not a bona-fide student.

The golden rule is: ALWAYS consult with the International Student Adviser BEFORE you leave the United States.  Generally speaking, the under-noted documents are required in order to enter the U.S. in J-1 or F-1 status:

1. Valid passport

2. Valid U.S. visa

3. Valid SEVIS I-20 or DS 2019 form, endorsed for travel

4. Updated financial support affidavits

5. If you are reentering from a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico or a Caribbean islands) you will need your original currently valid I-94 form

Students who travel overseas must obtain an F-1 or J-1 student visa from an American consulate if they do not have a currently valid visa in their passports. The U.S. visa officer normally requires the following documents in order to issue a visa:

1. Valid passport.

2. Valid SEVIS I-20 or DS 2019.

3. Financial support affidavits.

4. A certificate of attendance from the international student adviser.

5. Transcripts of the student's academic coursework to date.

6. Payment of the SEVIS processing fee, if required to pay fee (please click on the tab on the main menu for more information on this fee and who is required to pay it). 

Remember that there is never a 100% guarantee that a visa will be issued to you. For this reason it is crucial that you consult with the International Student Adviser before you leave the U.S.

Finally, if you are traveling to a country other than your country of citizenship or residence it is quite possible you will need a visa to enter that country.

TRAVEL & U.S. RE-ENTRY WITH EXPIRED VISA: The 'Automatic Visa Revalidation' Program

The United States Department of State (DOS) is the government office that distributes U.S. entry visas and governs U.S. embassies abroad.  They offer a visa program titled Automatic Revalidation.   For more information on this program visit the DOS website.

DOS website:

The title, Automatic Validation, refers to the automatic revalidation of U.S. entry visas. The title of this program really should have the following name.

'If you went to Canada, Mexico or an Island Adjacent to the U.S. Your Expired Visa Wakes Up at Port of Entry for One More Valid U.S. Re-Entry'. 

Individuals who have been granted F-1 and J-1 status AND who are actively maintaining their F-1 or J-1 status pursuant to the USCIS regulations that govern F and J activities, but who have an expired F-1 or J-1 visa, may travel outside the United States to a select number of countries and use their expired visa to re-enter the United States to continue their F-1 or J-1 activities.

The following conditions must be met in order to reenter the US with an expired visa

1.  Even if the country is listed below, you cannot use automatic visa revalidation to travel to your own country of origin

2.   You must NOT be from Cuba, or be subject to the NSEERS program, or Special Registration.

3.   Your expired visa must be the last visa issued to you and should be an F-1 visa or J-1 visa.  If you changed your status to F-1 or J-1 while in the U.S. (using Form I-539) and your last visa was something other than an F or J visa, please consult an international student advisor to see if you qualify to travel and re-enter under this program.

4.   Your stay outside the US with the expired F-1 or J-1 visa must be shorter than 30 days

5.   During your visit to these countries, you did not make an application for a new visa that was DENIED.

6.   You must be in good SEVIS status, and not have a TERMINATED SEVIS record.

You may visit the following countries, adjacent islands and possessions with an F-1 expired visa if you meet all conditions as listed above.  Failure to abide by the conditions can result in re-entry denial.  Be sure to take your passport, I-20 and have your I-94 card. 

When you travel using the Automatic Revalidation program, please do not relinquish your I-94 card when you exit the U.S.-you will not be given a new I-94 card when you re-enter the U.S. AND you will have to pay $300 and file Form I-102 to obtain a new I-94 once back in the U.S. 

The automatic revalidation program is only for re-entry from countries that border the United States or are island countries adjacent to the United States.  The following list identifies countries included in the Automatic Revalidation program.  For updated information, please visit the Department of State website noted above in this section.   Note, the Automatic Revalidation program does not allow individuals with expired visas to travel to South America or across any ocean.

Border Countries

  • Canada
  • Mexico

Adjacent Island Countries

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Miquelon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Pierre
  • The Bahamas
  • The Dominican Republic
  • The Windward and Leeward Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. 

You may NOT use automatic revalidation to visit Cuba.


Maribel Morua


Office of International Student and Scholar Services

The City College of New York

160 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
(212) 650 7000

Last Updated: 08/05/2019 09:39